ULYSSES, N.Y. — The 105,000 or so folks who live in Tompkins County come from all walks of life. Some have harder paths than others. For those who enter a path of addiction, it can feel more like a chasm with no way out.

Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services (CARS) is intended to be a lifeline for those in that chasm. When someone is being treated for substance abuse disorder, the first step, apart from crisis care, should the situation call for it as in an overdose, is inpatient care, the actual facilities for “detox,” or getting clean. However, the next steps for staying clean and sober can be just as difficult.

Brad Walworth, the Outreach Specialist for CARS, described some of the issues someone might face in getting access to care in the course of addiction recovery. “They might start off at crisis care, go to inpatient care and detox, and then residential care, but there aren’t a lot of residential care facilities around. One thing I’ve noticed with outreach is the fact that there is such a need for them, there are just not enough. Some people might be getting out of the hospital and not have this level of treatment around in other counties, there’s nothing open in that particular county and they have to go to a halfway house, which isn’t really fitting for their care. A home setting is more ideal for taking care of them.”

CARS is taking steps to try and provided more encompassing services in Tompkins County. One of those steps, an expanded outpatient opioid treatment program will open in CARS’s West State Street office next week. “One of the big challenges with outpatient assisted treatment is client compliance with medications. Tompkins County is great with that, but in some counties, it’s more challenging. Clients will be coming in six days a week to get their doses on-site. In outpatient, they’re responsible for taking that medication and getting their prescription filled. Here, they’ll get their medication in the morning six days a week and go on with their day.” said Walworth.

“For a lot of people, this will make a big difference in their lives. Syracuse and Binghamton offer comparable programs, but for a lot of people it’s prohibitive to get there and hold a steady job and spend a lot of time with their family,” added David Williams, the CQI Director for CARS.

Another step, set to get underway early next year, is an expanded residential treatment program. CARS plans to add a new 9,200 square-foot facility to its Ulysses campus, about two miles southwest of Trumansburg on Mecklenburg Road. The new 25-bed facility, which will be located next to the 60-bed facility CARS built in 2004, will be specifically geared towards women.

While a West State residential facility might seem more convenient, Williams noted there are reasons to site the residential facilities out in Ulysses. “The West State facility is taken up, there’s no room for expansion at the Downtown site. On top of that, there are logistical problems for opening up a facility in a cosmopolitan neighborhood,” said Williams.

To be clear, those Ulysses facilities aren’t detox facilities. Detox happens at a hospital or with another provider, and then the person is brought into those CARS facilities, where they stay until the possibility of relapse has abated and they’re comfortably able to live on their own. After all, the goal of CARS is to keep their clients clean and help them go on and lead productive, fulfilling lives.

The treatment plan while at the facility is dependent on the individual’s needs. “We offer different kinds of counseling, a holistic approach. Vocational counseling, mental health counseling, as well as medication-assisted treatment, to help them transition back to the community and outpatient care,” said Walworth.

“Their schedules are very busy, even on the weekend. For example, this past summer we had a number of residents having an art show at the Tompkins County Public Library during the month of July and August. They had an opening night and display for two months. Our clients loved it, and it gave them a chance to get back in touch with something they had lost touch with. We had five residential clients apply to go to college at TC3 (Tompkins-Cortland Community College) during the health and wellness fair we hosted. It’s such a positive environment to have those resources available to come to people in our residential center, just a lot of good quality activities.”

The CARS Facility on West State Street.

Funding for the expanded programs comes from OASAS, the NYS Office for Addiction Services and Support. OASAS identifies areas of the state where increased capacity to treat is needed, organizations that wish to fill the need apply to grants to serve those areas of greater need, and if a plan is viable and the provider has a good track record, they’re awarded the funding to expand their program and provide the desired addiction services and support. The women’s residential facility is being covered with a $5 million grant from OASAS.

“We did a lot of community outreach in Ulysses and reached out to our immediate neighbors for their concerns and to address them. We’ve been neighbors for almost 20 years so the increase in capacity that we’re seeking doesn’t fundamentally change what we’re doing,” said Williams.

“As far as people having concerns about people with addiction living nearby, right now we live in a world where people have addiction and do not get treatment, in every community. We’re working to help them get the help they need. There’s all sorts of things we can do to ensure we’re good neighbors, like making sure our front door lights aren’t shining into someone’s window,” he added.

The plan is to start next year after final site plan approval is grant and construction bids have been issued and awarded. The goal is to have the new women’s facility open by the end of 2020. With any luck, the new services will have CARS to serve the needs of Tompkins County residents in need, and set them back on better paths forward.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.